It continues to baffle me. No matter how hard I try to conquer it, this slimy flesh of mine wiggles its way out of the squeeze, jumps off the anvil, and springs back into action. I have gone so far as to condemn it to death, taken it outside the city gates, and crucified it there. Killed it. Buried it. Done.
It didn’t last. I had to do it again. And again. And once more, again. A hundred times or more. I documented it in my journal, “Today, self died.” Months later I wrote again, “I attended a funeral today—mine!”
Defeat has triumphed over me. Victory has eluded me. It’s not that I don’t have the desire for self to die—I do. I really do. Perhaps I just don’t know how to kill it. A few years ago I wrote a profound statement: “I am going to die to self if it kills me!”
I suspect I am not alone. Actually, I’m certain I’m not, since the Apostle Paul described a similar battle in Romans 7. This chapter has perplexed me for years. I know it by heart. It is me—my testimony. Paul’s and mine. I still wonder how Paul could have described my exact struggle:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me….So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (vs. 15-23; Emphasis added).
The only word in this chapter I must correct is the gender of the one with the heart-wrenching admission: “What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs. 24)
The word wretched is a hard swallow. It means: worthless, base, despicable, inadequate, inferior, shameful, and vile. O despicable me! How perfectly that describes the way I feel when I mess up, fail my Lord, allow my flesh to rise from the dead, and once again do what I do not want to do.
There is, however, a vast difference in Paul’s outcome and my experience. He heralded his success in the very next verse: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25) His victory statement is simple, concise, and matter of fact.
Why can’t it be like that for me? Why can’t I find the key that Paul found to unlock the mystery of conquering self? At least a million times I have asked that same question.
I must resolve the issue. I cannot move on until I do. I’ll keep asking and searching, searching and asking. There is an answer; yet not easily found because of the war waged against my finding it. I am sure God isn’t teasing me—He wants me to find the key to this age-old mystery.
I make one helpful discovery: There’s a whole lot of living going on between Romans 7:24 and Romans 7:25. There was for Paul, though his declaration of victory was so certain that he stated it as if it had just happened.
My Lord slowly grants seeing eyes. And I’m close—so close I can taste it, feel it, sense it, and believe it. I claim it as mine.
Join the journey. ~Janie Kellogg